Could Kyler Murray go No. 1 overall? Peter King thinks it could happen

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INDIANAPOLIS—It’s Kyler Murray’s Combine, followed by Kyler Murray’s Pro Day, followed by the spring of Kyler Murray Rumors, followed by, mercifully, the first round of the NFL Draft on April 25 and the official landing place of Kyler Murray.

Who, by the way, did nothing here over three days except measure taller than he was supposed to (by a whole quarter of an inch!), talk to 10 teams, and geek out over seeing the coaches he’s been watching on TV for years.

Until the defensive linemen ran fast on Sunday, the player who did nothing here was the mega-story. A lot of it was the size thing. “I’m just sitting here and I’m on the TV. You can’t really get away from it,” a bemused Murray said in his only media availability here, a 40-question, 20-minute session with reporters Friday.But this was more than the mania over 5-10 1/8. Murray’s fate and his story just hung over the whole shebang. “I don’t know any player who’s attracted as much attention at any Combine that I’ve ever seen,’’ Combine guru Gil Brandt said Sunday night. Kim Jones said on NFL Network on Saturday that people around the league believed “almost universally” that Murray would be the first pick in the draft, by Arizona. Draft analyst Tony Pauline reported Sunday that Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury was saying at the combine that Murray to the Cardinals is a “done deal.”

I don’t know enough about either of those reports to confirm them, and I do believe there’s a good chance the Cardinals take Murray number one. I can say five things about Murray and this draft after doing some legwork at the combine Friday and Saturday:

1. GM Steve Keim has final say on Cardinals personnel, including the draft. I would be shocked if today, 53 days before the draft and not having had a private workout nor a long conversation with Murray, that Keim has decided to pick Murray. “I don’t believe it for a second,” said Greg Gabriel, a veteran of 31 NFL drafts as a scout. “Could he have the lead in the clubhouse now? Sure. But nobody makes decisions like that this far out, without doing their due diligence.”

2. There are two Josh Rosen problems. Last year, Arizona traded third-round and fifth-round picks to move up five slots in the first round to choose the UCLA quarterback. So now, if they pick Murray, the Cardinals would have to dump Rosen after 13 shaky starts, and it’s a tricky proposition. “The danger is, you start to shop Rosen, and everyone knows you’re picking Murray,” said former NFL front-office man Mike Lombardi.

3. Rosen Problem 2: What could you get in trade for him? Miami (13th pick in the first round), Washingon (15), the Chargers (28) and New England (32) would be worth investigating … unless the compensation for Rosen has crashed. I asked Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who lives in Arizona and watched Rosen last year, what he thinks the value for Rosen is. “I would give a three for Josh,” Warner said. A third-round pick. Yikes. Saturday night, I asked a renowned NFL GM what he thought the value of Rosen in trade would. “Probably a three,” the GM said. “Not what the Cardinals would think his value is.” Scary, on the surface, for Arizona. But if you’ve decided you want Murray, and you’ve decided Rosen’s not your guy, you’ve got to move on, regardless what you get for Rosen.

4. Oakland coach Jon Gruden, picking fourth, loves Murray. He and GM Mike Mayock have gone out of their way to say multiple times that Derek Carr is their quarterback. Maybe they’re rock-solid on Carr, and maybe it’ll be a moot point if the Cardinals stay at number one. But with all their draft loot in the next two drafts (five first-round picks), and with Gruden’s crush on Murray, the Raiders bear watching.

5. Murray met with 10 teams in Indianapolis, but I wouldn’t read a lot into that. The usual suspects were among the 10 teams—Arizona, Oakland, the Giants, Jacksonville, Miami and Washington. But he also met with Detroit, Seattle and the Chargers. Detroit. Hmmm. Seattle: probably just fact-finding. I’m not sure of the 10th team. But as I said, don’t read too much into that.

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NFL fans apparently don’t want an 18-game regular season

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In the news this week, as the league gets back to business for the 100th season of American professional football:

• The owners and players meet Wednesday in another formal bargaining session for a new CBA. A three-day meeting is scheduled between the NFL’s Management Council and the NFLPA’s Executive Committee (a 10-player unit including president Eric Winston and VPs Richard ShermanBenjamin Watsonand Adam Vinatieri). This will be the fourth bargaining session between owners and players this spring/summer, with the hope being the two sides can reach an agreement on a new bargaining agreement in 2019. (The CBA has two more seasons to run, and expires in the spring of 2021.)

Commissioner Roger Goodell recently told CNBC that it is “certainly our intent” to try to get a new CBA before the start of the season. In a round of calls Saturday, I got some optimism from a team source who felt the chance of making a deal on a new CBA was 50-50 this year if the union would stick with the current economic formula of the game; currently players get about 47 percent of the game’s gross revenue.

But I talked to a source on the player side who wasn’t nearly as hopeful, in part because he felt the players need a bigger cut of the pie to agree to a new deal two seasons out from the end of the current CBA. This person called the first three meetings positive, but baby steps toward a deal. I do know that there have not been any significant discussions on a change in the revenue split yet. Those talks will have to progress for anything to get done.

• The 18-game schedule is nowhere near a reality. I heard that one or two teams are interested in what the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the NFL has proposed discussing with the players as part of the CBA talks: an 18-game regular-season schedule, with each player eligible to play a maximum of 16 games. This is not a new idea—it’s been thrown around at league meetings as one idea to expand the inventory and enrich the league’s TV deals for years.

“I can’t see it,” one plugged-in club official told me. “Imagine you pay to see Tom Brady and the Patriots, and the Patriots announce that week it’s one of the two games he’ll sitting out this year. Now you’re seeing Brian Hoyer throw to some practice-squad guy. I don’t see any way we could ever do that.”

I’ve always thought in an era when the reduction of head trauma is job one in everything the league does, the only way the NFL could even consider 18 games is with teams playing players a maximum of 16 weeks. But the details make it too hard. How would a team divvy up the starts, say, for the starting offensive line? Would they figure the starting tackles should play every week with the starting quarterback, and thus doom the backup in his two games to a run-for-your-life offensive scheme?

The continued pursuit—or the continuing broaching—of an 18-game schedule is such a short-sighted and greedy thing. The NFL paid each team $275 million out of the league share of total revenue in 2018, and teams paid about $215 million annually in player costs (cap plus benefits). After that, teams can reap major raw profits over what they did in local team revenue.

Someone in the NFL seems determined to kill the most golden of geese by pursuing, even in a passing way, this stupid idea. Greed, in this case, is not good.

• Fans don’t want 18 games either. I put out a Twitter poll Saturday and Sunday, asking if readers preferred a 16 or 18-game schedule. Of 13,533 voters, 79 percent said 16. Great comment from a Vikings fan, Jason Altland: “If I pay out the nose for decent tickets in Baltimore or New York to see my Vikings, I want to see all the healthy stars play. I don’t want to pay and end up with a [Stefon] Diggs or {Adam] Thielen bye game.”

Pro Football Talk also polled its readers over the weekend about the 16/18-game idea, with more options than I offered … and 62 percent said they favored 16 games—with 8 percent saying they favored 18 with a maximum of 16 games per player per season.

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Why Melvin Gordon’s holdout with the Chargers could get ugly

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I think this Melvin Gordon-Chargers impasse could get ugly. The Chargers running back, entering his fifth season, could hold out from training camp into the season if he doesn’t get either a new contract or a significant raise from his $5.6-million salary in 2019. There’s a few reasons the holdout could last a while, starting with the fact that Chargers GM Tom Telesco, who grew up in the Bill Polian front office of the Colts, is not afraid to take a hard line. But mostly, it’s about what happens in recent years when teams have either paid runners or drawn a hard line with them. Examples:

• Le’Veon Bell balked at the Steelers’ offer of $14.5 million on the franchise tag last year. James Conner wasn’t quite as productive as vintage Bell—270 touches, 1,470 yards, 13 touchdowns—but he was close. And Conner, who made $754,572 last year, cost 1/19th of what Bell would have commended. No one in Pittsburgh is bemoaning the loss of Bell, though he’s a great player.

• Todd Gurley is a great back too, and the Rams paid a guaranteed $45 million last year. They’ll say they aren’t regretting what they paid Gurley, but an odd and persistent knee problem last year limited him to 88 carries in the Rams’ last nine games—including a 35-yard rushing performance in the Super Bowl. The Rams picked up C.J. Anderson off the street in December, and in five games, he rushed for 488 yards.

• David Johnson of the Cardinals responded to his new $13-million-a-year deal on the eve of the 2018 season by rushing for 940 yards (3.6 yards per carry).

• Devonta Freeman signed with Atlanta for $22 million guaranteed in 2017. He’s missed 16 of the Falcons’ last 32 regular-season games and averaged 58 yards per game in the 16 he’s played.

In 30 games over his two NFL seasons, Charger understudy Austin Ekeler has proven elusive and reliable, averaging 5.3 yards per rush and 10.3 yards per catch, with just two lost fumbles. I don’t think Telesco will be afraid to take the slings and arrows of a holdout. So if you’re drafting your fantasy team very early, I’d give a long look at Ekeler.

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